I Do Movies Badly: Get Out
What can be said about a film that in just 3 years has already been canonized as a classic and has inspired classes in academia? All I can really add to the conversation about Get Out are the reasons that I think it’s an excellent horror film along with why it’s a fucking absurd critique to say “if the protagonist was white, we wouldn’t be talking about it.”
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Huh, I thought this post had gotten completely skipped over. Based on the dates above, I wonder if it disappeared and then reappeared.
I really don’t think Get Out compares to the Exorcist at this point. There was an immediate wave of ripoffs/parodies of the Exorcist afterward. That’s not the case with Get Out. Personally, I think it bears more of a comparison to the Sixth Sense: a very well-directed horror film which put its director solidly on the map. The Exorcist as a franchise can live or die independently from Friedkin.
I don’t know who’s making the complaint you refer to about nobody caring if the protagonist is white, but my perspective is sort of the opposite: the premise doesn’t depend AT ALL on race (and the film is well made enough that I think it WOULD still be popular without that angle, and “Being John Malkovitch” sort of was that). Stephen Root’s character is blind, so he literally doesn’t see race, he just wants functioning organs, and plenty of people in his situation (and recall that all of our bodies break down with age) would feel similarly. I do find it interesting that Jordan Peele specifically made this movie, because the film itself vindicates the anti-miscegnationist perspective of Rod (the crowd-favorite character), even while Peele himself is the son & husband of two white women, respectively. Peele’s claim that the film is arguing against slotting people into racial boxes doesn’t at all mesh with the text of the film, so I wonder if he just thought that was the sort of thing he was supposed to say (and may reflect his personal beliefs better than the film itself does). It’s really Peele’s sketch comedy which is more reflective of his crossing of racial boundaries, while the film reduces race into more discrete categories in which a person who looks black but doesn’t “act black” must be a white mind inhabiting a black body (Screen to Screed’s review of the film elaborates on that angle). So I disagree that the film is about “his” experience, which might be too unique for a mass-market film. On the other hand, the protagonist having an absent (dead) mother (Peele himself had an absent father) is a common trope despite being relatively uncommon in real life, so maybe being representative is overrated.
The ironic thing about Allison Williams’ character separating “colors” (cereal) from “white” (milk) is that it’s the opposite of what she otherwise does (and she’s complicit in a form of mixing which goes beyond what’s scientifically possible in our world).
The suburbs are much different than they used to be (for one thing, they’ve gotten less white as certain cities have gentrified and pushed out the working class), but my guess is that they’re still safer than cities, and specifically for African-American men. But the dangers faced by a black man living in a city are too “dog-bites-man” to be interesting enough for a horror film (instead they could fit in a slice-of-life realist movie like “Cooley High” which was intended to show that the life of the screenwriter was NOT as “horrific” as commonly thought).
I disagree that the horror genre has “always” been about giving voice to the marginalized. It has more commonly used the marginal (whether the quasi-human or the mentally ill) as a source of fear for the masses. The most marginalized people in society generally don’t get to make movies (this is related to what Olúfémi O. Táíwò calls “Being-in-the-Room Privilege”), and if they do it will have a tiny budget and no distribution.
I do wonder if a strictly faithful adaptation of Barker’s “The Forbidden” would have been successful. Perhaps not in America, we prefer to imagine England as permanently in an aristocratic era.